Workers Vanguard No. 878
13 October 2006
From Death row, This Is Mumia Abu-Jamal
The United States of Torture
For several years now, since the inception of the US occupation of Iraq (and the installation of the Iraqi puppet regime), the American people have been treated to a plethora of promises of peace. Events were supposed to pacify the people, like various elections, the scribbling of a constitution, the arrest of Saddam Hussein, each was supposed to lead to the angelic choirs of peace, and the equally heavenly rise of democracy.
In fact, every event has led to more, not less, unrest, and violence is choking the country, leading it down the path of civil, sectarian war.
The behavior of the occupying power (the US) has helped lead to this dire end, in large part because of how many tens of thousands of Iraqis have been treated once theyve fallen into the clutches of the Americans.
A recent book on American imprisonment and yes —torture, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and here at home argues that Americans have fueled the nationalist, and anti-occupation resistance, by their ignorance, their racism, and their treatment of Iraqi detainees.
One need only mention the notorious Abu Ghraib torture center to, in a mere name, tell a hundred stories, but the new book, American Methods: Torture and the Logic of Domination (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, forthcoming May, 2006), by activist/writer Kristian Williams, tells us of how other people were treated, in other parts of the country, in other countries, and here, in the United States, to show us how central torture is to the American way of life.
Of course, if you are African or Native American, this is hardly a new idea. But, as most eyes are focused on the raging war in Iraq, Williams writes: Torture is the technique of empire; empire, the ideological framework and political infrastructure of torture.
Williams argues that torture is a state tool of domination, and is used to impress upon Iraqis the sheer power of the US.
For one relatively minor, but telling example, he cites the Guardian interview of an Iraqi woman, Huda Alazawi, who, with her entire family, were thrown into Abu Ghraib, where she worked picking up trash. She said:
Because I could speak a bit of English I was given the job of emptying the rubbish. There was never enough food and one day I came across an old woman who had collapsed from hunger. The Americans were always eating lots of hot food. I found some in a packet in a bin and gave it to her. They caught me and threw me in a one metre-square punishment cell. They poured cold water on me for four hours. [p. 14]
Miss Alazawi was held in solitary confinement for 157 days.
Again, relatively minor, but it reflects how average people were treated at the hands of the Americans. Of course, people were beaten to death, humiliated, raped, and forced to do foul things.
If there were no pictures, however, who would be writing about it?
Occupations are about power, mass violence, and the terror of the occupying state against the invaded state.
To get some sense of that massive violence, I invite you to read Williams forthcoming work.
Williams writes that torture, whether in Abu Ghraib, in Unit 2, of the Chicago Police Station, or in any state institution, is a tool to create terror, and silence. He writes:
is not incidental to state power; it is characteristic of that power. Torture doesnt represent a system failure; it is the system. [p. 3]
And of course, this way of treating people didnt just happen.
It came from the highest levels of government—the White House, the so-called Department of Justice, the Defense Department—all sent messages in the field: the gloves are off; do what you have to do, etc.
That it doesnt really work is almost beside the point.
In December, 2003, President George W. Bush (or, rather his speechwriters) claimed, in an address to the nation, the torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever. [p. 7]
Today, in the shadow of Abu Ghraibs memory, we find secret prisons run by the puppet regime, and masked police swarming all over the cities.
Torture, and terror, has just changed management.
8 March 2006
©2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Send urgently needed contributions for Mumias legal defense, made payable to National Lawyers Guild Foundation and earmarked for Mumia, to: Committee to Save Mumia Abu-Jamal, P.O. Box 2012, New York, NY 10159.
If you wish to correspond with Mumia, you can write to: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM8335, SCI Greene, 175 Progress Drive, Waynesburg, PA 15370.